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News – EU Translation
2008.02.22

At a debate hosted by the Centre for European Policy Studies today, Juhani Lönnroth, the Director General for Translation at the European Commission, argued that despite fears about the increasing costs for translation and interpretation in the EU, the principle of granting each citizen the right to communicate with Brussels in their own language should not be altered, no matter the number of member states in the future. He did, however, note that it was worth considering what constituted a language: ‘Is Croatian really a language different from Serbian, or is it the same language spelled with a different alphabet? Is the Albanian spoken in Kosovo different from the Albanian in Tirana? These are politically very sensitive questions. Language and power are very closely related. Throughout history, totalitarian regimes have not been keen on teaching their populations other languages than that of the ruling layers, for instance.’ Nonetheless, he concluded that the principle should not be risked: ‘We are looking at rights, not numbers. If there is one Maltese person who does not understand the paper put before him, he has the same rights as any German to have the document translated into his own language.’

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